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The Black Ice
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Table of Contents
A Preview of The Concrete Blonde
A Preview of The Crossing
About the Author
Books by Michael Connelly
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THE SMOKE CARRIED UP FROM THE Cahuenga Pass and flattened beneath a layer of cool crossing air. From where Harry Bosch watched, the smoke looked like a gray anvil rising up the pass. The late afternoon sun gave the gray a pinkish tint at its highest point, tapering down to deep black at its root, which was a brushfire moving up the hillside on the east side of the cut. He switched his scanner to the Los Angeles County mutual aid frequency and listened as firefighter battalion chiefs reported to a command post that nine houses were already gone on one street and those on the next street were in the path. The fire was moving toward the open hillsides of Griffith Park, where it might make a run for hours before being controlled. Harry could hear the desperation in the voices of the men on the scanner.
Bosch watched the squadron of helicopters, like dragonflies from this distance, dodging in and out of the smoke, dropping their payloads of water and pink fire retardant on burning homes and trees. It reminded him of the dustoffs in Vietnam. The noise. The uncertain bobbing and weaving of the overburdened craft. He saw the water crushing through flaming roofs and steam immediately rising.
He looked away from the fire and down into the dried brush that carpeted the hillside and surrounded the pylons that held his own home to the hillside on the west side of the pass. He saw daisies and wildflowers in the chaparral below. But not the coyote he had seen in recent weeks hunting in the arroyo below his house. He had thrown down pieces of chicken to the scavenger on occasion, but the animal never accepted the food while Bosch watched. Only after Bosch went back in off the porch would the animal creep out and take the offerings. Harry had christened the coyote Timido. Sometimes late at night he heard the coyote's howl echoing up the pass.
He looked back out at the fire just as there was a loud explosion and a concentrated ball of black smoke rotated up within the gray anvil. There was excited chatter on the scanner and a battalion chief reported that a propane tank from a barbecue had ignited.
Harry watched the darker smoke dissipate in the larger cloud and then switched the scanner back to the LAPD tactical frequencies. He was on call. Christmas duty. He listened for a half minute but heard nothing other than routine radio traffic. It appeared to be a quiet Christmas in Hollywood.
He looked at his watch and took the scanner inside. He pulled the pan out of the oven and slid his Christmas dinner, a roasted breast of chicken, onto a plate. Next he took the lid off a pot of steamed rice and peas and dumped a large portion onto the plate. He took his meal out to the table in the dining room, where there was already a glass of red wine waiting, next to the three cards that had come in the mail earlier in the week but that he had left unopened. He had Coltrane's arrangement of "Song of the Underground Railroad" on the CD player.
As he ate and drank he opened the cards, studied them briefly and thought of their senders. This was the ritual of a man who was alone, he knew, but it didn't bother him. He'd spent many Christmases alone.
The first card was from a former partner who had retired on book and movie money and moved to Ensenada. It said what Anderson's cards always said: "Harry, when you coming down?" The next one was also from Mexico, from the guide Harry had spent six weeks living and fishing and practicing Spanish with the previous summer in Bahia San Felipe. Bosch had been recovering from a bullet wound in the shoulder. The sun and sea air helped him mend. In his holiday greeting, written in Spanish, Jorge Barrera also invited Bosch's return.
The last card Bosch opened slowly and carefully, also knowing who it was from before seeing the signature. It was postmarked Tehachapi. And so he knew. It was handprinted on off-white paper from the prison's recycling mill and the Nativity scene was slightly smeared. It was from a woman he had spent one night with but thought about on more nights than he could remember. She, too, wanted him to visit. But they both knew he never would.
He sipped some wine and lit a cigarette. Coltrane was now into the live recording of "Spiritual" captured at the Village Vanguard in New York when Harry was just a kid. But then the radio scanner—still playing softly on a table next to the television—caught his attention. Police scanners had played for so long as the background music of his life that he could ignore the chatter, concentrate on the sound of a saxophone, and still pick up the words and codes that were unusual. What he heard was a voice saying, "One-K-Twelve, Staff Two needs your twenty."
Bosch got up and walked over to the scanner, as if looking at it would make its broadcast more clear. He waited ten seconds for a reply to the request. Twenty seconds.
"Staff Two, location is the Hideaway, Western south of Franklin. Room seven. Uh, Staff Two should bring a mask."
Bosch waited for more but that was it. The location given, Western and Franklin, was within Hollywood Division's boundaries. One-K-Twelve was a radio designation for a homicide detective out of the downtown headquarters' Parker Center. The Robbery-Homicide Division. And Staff Two was the designation for an assistant chief of police. There were only three ACs in the department and Bosch was unsure which one was Staff Two. But it didn't matter. The question was, what would one of the highest-ranking men in the department be rolling out for on Christmas night?
A second question bothered Harry even more. If RHD was already on the call, why hadn't he—the on-call detective in Hollywood Division—been notified first? He went to the kitchen, dumped his plate in the sink, dialed the station on Wilcox and asked for the watch commander. A lieutenant named Kleinman picked up. Bosch didn't know him. He was new, a transfer out of Foothill Division.
"What's going on?" Bosch asked. "I'm hearing on the scanner about a body at Western and Franklin and nobody's told me a thing. And that's funny 'cause I'm on call out today."
"Don't worry 'bout it," Kleinman said. "The hats have got it all squared away."
Kleinman must be an oldtimer, Bosch figured. He hadn't heard that expression in years. Members of RHD wore straw bowlers in the 1940s. In the fifties it was gray fedoras. Hats went out of style after that—uniformed officers called RHD detectives "suits" now, not "hats"—but not homicide special cops. They still thought they were the tops, up there high like a cat's ass. Bosch had hated that arrogance even when he'd been one of them. One good thing about working Hollywood, the city's sewer. Nobody had any airs. It was police work, plain and simple.
"What's the call?" Bosch asked.
Kleinman hesitated a few seconds and then said, "We've got a body in a motel room on Franklin. It's looking suicide. But RHD is going to take it—I mean, they've already taken it. We're out of it. That's from on high, Bosch."
Bosch said nothing. He thought a moment. RHD coming out on a Christmas suicide. It didn't make much—then it flashed to him.
"How old is this thing?" he asked. "I heard them tell Staff Two to bring a mask."
"It's ripe. They said it'd be a real potato head. Problem is, there isn't much head left. Looks like he smoked both barrels of a shotgun. At least, that's what I'm picking up on the RHD freek."
Bosch's scanner did not pick up the RHD frequency. That was why he had not heard any of the early radio traffic on the call. The suits had apparently switched freeks only to notify Staff Two's driver of the address. If not for that, Bosch would not have heard about the call until the following morning when he came into the station. This angered him but he kept his voice steady. He wanted to get what he could from Kleinman.
"It's Moore, isn't it?"
"Looks like it," Kleinman said. "His shield is on the bureau there. Wallet. But like I said, nobody's going to make a visual ID from the body. So nothing is for sure."
"How did this all go down?"
"Look, Bosch, I'm busy here, you know what I mean? This doesn't concern you. RHD has it."
"No, you're wrong, man. It does concern me. I should've gotten first call from you. I want to know how it went down so I understand why I didn't."
"Awright, Bosch, it went like this. We get a call out from the owner of the dump says he's got a stiff in the bathroom of room seven. We send a unit out and they call back and say, yeah, we got the stiff. But they called back on a land line—no radio—'cause they saw the badge and the wallet on the bureau and knew it was Moore. Or, at least, thought it was him. We'll see. Anyway, I called Captain Grupa at home and he called the AC. The hats were called in and you were not. That's the way it goes. So if you have a beef, it's with Grupa or maybe the AC, not me. I'm clean."
Bosch didn't say anything. He knew that sometimes when he was quiet, the person he needed information from would eventually fill the silence.
"It's out of our hands now," Kleinman said. "Shit, the TV and Times are out there. Daily News. They figure it's Moore, like everybody else. It's a big mess. You'd think the fire up on the hill would be enough to keep them occupied. No way. They're out there lined up on Western. I gotta send another car over for media control. So, Bosch, you should be happy you aren't involved. It's Christmas, for Chrissake."
But that wasn't good enough. Bosch should have been called and then it should have been his decision when to call out RHD. Someone had taken him out of the process altogether and that still burned him. He said good-bye and lit another cigarette. He got his gun out of the cabinet above the sink and hooked it to the belt on his blue jeans. Then he put on a light-tan sport coat over the Army green sweater he was wearing.
It was dark outside now and through the sliding glass door he could see the fire line across the pass. It burned brightly on the black silhouette of the hill. It was a crooked devil's grin moving to the crest.
From out in the darkness below his house he heard the coyote. Howling at the rising moon or the fire, or maybe just at himself for being alone and in the dark.
BOSCH DROVE DOWN OUT OF THE HILLS into Hollywood, traveling mostly on deserted streets until he reached the Boulevard. On the sidewalks there were the usual groupings of runaways and transients. There were strolling prostitutes—he saw one with a red Santa hat on. Business is business, even on Christmas night. There were elegantly made up women sitting on bus benches who were not really women and not really waiting for buses. The tinsel and Christmas lights strung across the Boulevard at each intersection added a surreal touch to the neon glitz and grime. Like a whore with too much makeup, he thought—if there was such a thing.
But it wasn't the scene that depressed Bosch. It was Cal Moore. Bosch had been expecting this for nearly a week, since the moment he heard that Moore had failed to show up for roll call. For most of the cops at Hollywood Division it wasn't a question of whether Moore was dead. It was just a question of how long before his body turned up.
Moore had been a sergeant heading up the division's street narcotics unit. It was a night job and his unit worked the Boulevard exclusively. It was known in the division that Moore had separated from his wife and replaced her with whiskey. Bosch had found that out firsthand the one time he had spent time with the narc. He had also learned that there might be something more than just marital problems and early burnout plaguing him. Moore had spoken obliquely of Internal Affairs and a personnel investigation.
It all added up to a heavy dose of Christmas depression. As soon as Bosch heard they were starting a search for Cal Moore, he knew. The man was dead.
And so did everyone else in the department, though nobody said this out loud. Not even the media said it. At first the department tried to handle it quietly. Discreet questions at Moore's apartment in Los Feliz. A few helicopter runs over the nearby hills in Griffith Park. But then a TV reporter was tipped and all the other stations and the newspapers followed the story for the ride. The media dutifully reported on the progress of the search for the missing cop, Moore's photograph was pinned to the bulletin board in the Parker Center press room and the weight of the department made the standard pleas to the public. It was drama. Or, at least, it was good video; horseback searches, air searches, the police chief holding up the photo of the darkly handsome and serious-looking sergeant. But nobody said they were looking for a dead man.
Bosch stopped the car for the light at Vine and watched a man wearing a sandwich board cross the street. His stride was quick and jerky and his knees continuously popped the cardboard sign up in the air. Bosch saw there was a satellite photograph of Mars pasted on the board with a large section of it circled. Written in large letters below was REPENT! THE FACE OF THE LORD WATCHES US! Bosch had seen the same photograph on the cover of a tabloid while standing in line at a Lucky store, but the tabloid had claimed that the face was that of Elvis.
The light changed and he continued on toward Western. He thought of Moore. Outside of one evening spent drinking with him at a jazz bar near the Boulevard, he had not had much interaction with Moore. When Bosch had been transferred to Hollywood Division from RHD the year before, there had been hesitant handshakes and glad-to-know-yous from everyone in the division. But people generally kept their distance. It was understandable, since he had been rolled out of RHD on an IAD beef, and Bosch didn't mind. Moore was one of those who didn't go out of his way to do much more than nod when they passed in the hall or saw each other at staff meetings. Which was also understandable since the homicide table where Bosch worked was in the first-floor detective bureau and Moore's squad, the Hollywood BANG—short for Boulevard Anti-Narcotics Group—was on the second floor of the station. Still, there had been the one encounter. For Bosch it had been a meeting to pick up some background information for a case he was working. For Moore it had been an opportunity to have many beers and many whiskeys.
Moore's BANG squad had the kind of slick, media-grabbing name the department favored but in reality was just five cops working out of a converted storage room and roaming Hollywood Boulevard at night, dragging in anybody with a joint or better in his pocket. BANG was a numbers squad, created to make as many arrests as possible in order to help justify requests for more manpower, equipment and, most of all, overtime in the following year's budget. It did not matter that the DA's office handed out probation deals on most of the cases and kicked the rest. What mattered were those arrest statistics. And if Channel 2 or 4 or a Times reporter from the Westside insert wanted to ride along one night and do a story on the BANG squad, all the better. There were numbers squads in every division.
At Western Bosch turned north and ahead he could see the flashing blue and yellow lights of the patrol cars and the lightning-bright strobes of TV cameras. In Hollywood such a display usually signaled the violent end of a life or the premiere of a movie. But Bosch knew nothing premiered in this part of town except thirteen-year-old hookers.
Bosch pulled to the curb a half block from the Hideaway and lit a cigarette. Some things about Hollywood never changed. They just came up with new names for them. The place had been a run-down dump thirty years ago when it was called the El Rio. It was a run-down dump now. Bosch had never been there but he had grown up in Hollywood and remembered. He had stayed in enough places like it. With his mother. When she was still alive.
The Hideaway was a 1940s-era courtyard motel that during the day would be nicely shaded by a large banyan tree which stood in its center. At night, the motel's fourteen rooms receded into a darkness only the glow of red neon invaded. Harry noticed that the E in the sign announcing MONTHLY RATES was out.
When he was a boy and the Hideaway was the El Rio, the area was already in decay. But there wasn't as much neon and the buildings, if not the people, looked fresher, less grim. There had been a Streamline Moderne office building that looked like an ocean liner docked next to the motel. It had set sail a long time ago and another mini-mall was there now.
Looking at the Hideaway from his parked car, Harry knew it was a sorry place to stay the night. A sorrier place to die. He got out and headed over.
Yellow crime scene tape was strung across the mouth of the courtyard and was manned by uniformed officers. At one end of the tape bright lights from TV cameras focused on a group of men in suits. The one with the gleaming, shaven scalp was doing all the talking. As Bosch approached, he realized that the lights were blinding them. They could not see past the interviewers. He quickly showed his badge to one of the uniforms, signed his name on the Crime Scene Attendance Log the cop held on a clipboard and slipped under the tape.
The door to room 7 was open and light from inside spilled out. The sound of an electric harp also wafted from the room and that told Bosch that Art Donovan had caught the case. The crime scene tech always brought a portable radio with him. And it was always tuned to The Wave, a new-age music channel. Donovan said the music brought a soothing calm to a scene where people had killed or been killed.
Harry walked through the door, holding a handkerchief over his mouth and nose. It didn't help. The odor that was like no other assaulted him as soon as he passed the threshold. He saw Donovan on his knees dusting fingerprint powder onto the dials of the air-conditioner unit in the wall below the room's front, and only, window.
"Cheers," Donovan said. He was wearing a painter's mask to guard against the odor and the intake of the black powder. "In the bathroom."
Bosch took a look around, quickly, since it was likely he would be told to leave as soon as the suits discovered him. The room's queen-sized bed was made with a faded pink coverlet. There was a single chair with a newspaper on it. Bosch walked over and noted that it was the Times, dated six days earlier. There was a bureau and mirror combination to the side of the bed. On top of it was an ashtray with a single butt pressed into it after being half smoked. There was also a .38 Special in a nylon boot holster, a wallet and a badge case. These last three had been dusted with the black fingerprint powder. There was no note on the bureau—the place Harry would've expected it to be.
"No note," he said, more to himself than Donovan.
"Nope. Nothing in the bathroom, either. Have a look. That is, if you don't mind losing your Christmas dinner."
Harry looked down the short hallway that went to the rear off the left side of the bed. The bathroom door was on the right and he felt reluctance as he approached. He believed there wasn't a cop alive who hadn't thought at least once of turning his own hand cold.
He stopped at the threshold. The body sat on the dingy white floor tile, its back propped against the tub. The first thing to register on Bosch was the boots. Gray snakeskins with bulldog heels. Moore had worn them the night they had met for drinks. One boot was still on the right foot and he could see the manufacturer's symbol, an S like a snake, on the worn rubber heel. The left boot was off and stood upright next to the wall. The exposed foot, which was in a sock, had been wrapped in a plastic evidence bag. The sock had once been white, Bosch guessed. But now it was grayish and the limb was slightly bloated.
On the floor next to the door jamb was a twenty-gauge shotgun with side-by-side barrels. The stock was splintered along the bottom edge. A four-inch-long sliver of wood lay on the tile and had been circled with a blue crayon by Donovan or one of the detectives.
Bosch had no time to deliberate on these facts. He just tried to take it all in. He raised his eyes the length of the body. Moore was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. His hands were dropped at his sides. His skin was gray wax. The fingers thick with putrefaction, the forearms bulging like Popeye's. Bosch saw a misshapen tattoo on the right arm, a devil's grinning face below a halo.
The body was slumped back against the tub and it almost appeared that Moore had rolled his head back as if to dip it into the tub, maybe to wash his hair. But Bosch realized it only looked that way because most of the head was simply not there. It had been destroyed by the force of the double-barrel blast. The light blue tiles that enclosed the tub area were awash in dried blood. The brown drip trails all went down into the tub. Some of the tiles were cracked where shotgun pellets had struck.
Bosch felt the presence of someone behind him. He turned into the stare of Assistant Chief Irvin Irving. Irving was wearing no mask and holding no rag to his mouth and nose.
Irving nodded and said, "What brings you here, Detective?"
Bosch had seen enough to be able to put together what had happened. He stepped away from the threshold, moved around Irving and walked toward the front door. Irving followed. They passed two men from the medical examiner's office who were wearing matching blue jumpsuits. Outside the room Harry threw his handkerchief into a trash can brought to the scene by the cops. He lit a cigarette and noticed that Irving was carrying a manila file in his hand.
"I picked it up on my scanner," Bosch said. "Thought I'd come out since I'm supposed to be on call tonight. It's my division, it's supposed to be my call."
"Yes, well, when it was established who was in the room, I decided to move the case to Robbery-Homicide Division immediately. Captain Grupa contacted me. I made the decision."
"So it's already been established that's Moore in there?"
"Not quite." He held up the manila file. "I ran by records and pulled his prints. They will be the final factor, of course. There is also the dental—if there is enough left. But all other appearances lead to that conclusion. Whoever's in there checked in under the name Rodrigo Moya, which was the alias Moore used in BANG. And there's a Mustang parked behind the motel that was rented under that name. At the moment, I don't think there is much doubt here among the collective investigative team."
Bosch nodded. He had dealt with Irving before, when the older man was a deputy chief in command of the Internal Affairs Division. Now he was an AC, one of the top three men in the department, and his purview had been extended to include IAD, narcotics intelligence and investigation, and all detective services. Harry momentarily debated whether he should risk pushing the point about not getting the first call.
"I should have been called," he said anyway. "It's my case. You took it away before I even had it."
"Well, Detective, it was mine to take and give away, wouldn't you agree? There is no need to get upset. Call it streamlining. You know Robbery-Homicide handles all officer deaths. You would have had to pass it to them eventually. This saves time. There is no ulterior motive here other than expediency. That's the body of an officer in there. We owe it to him and his family, no matter what the circumstances of his death are, to move quickly and professionally."
Bosch nodded again and looked around. He saw an RHD detective named Sheehan in a doorway below the MONTHLY RAT S sign near the front of the motel. He was questioning a man of about sixty who was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt despite the evening chill and chewing a sodden cigar stump. The manager.
"Did you know him?" Irving asked.
"Moore? No, not really. I mean, yes, I knew him. We worked the same division, so we knew each other. He was on night shift mostly, working the streets. We didn't have much contact…"
Bosch did not know why in that moment he decided to lie. He wondered if Irving had read it in his voice. He changed the subject.
"So, it's suicide—is that what you told the reporters?"
"I did not tell the reporters a thing. I talked to them, yes. But I said nothing about the identity of the body in this room. And will not, until it is officially confirmed. You and I can stand here and say we are pretty sure that is Calexico Moore in there but I won't give that to them until we've done every test, dotted every i on the death certificate."
He slapped the manila file hard on his thigh.
"This is why I pulled his personnel file. To expedite. The prints will go with the body to the medical examiner." Irving looked back toward the door of the motel room. "But you were inside, Detective Bosch, you tell me."
Bosch thought a moment. Is this guy interested, or is he just pulling my chain? This was the first time he had dealt with Irving outside of the adversarial situation of an Internal Affairs investigation. He decided to take a chance.
"Looks like he sits down on the floor by the tub, takes off his boot and pulls both triggers with his toe. I mean, I assume it was both barrels, judging by the damage. He pulls the triggers with his toe, the recoil throws the shotgun into the door jamb, splintering off a piece of the stock. His head goes the other way. Onto the wall and into the tub. Suicide."
"There you go," Irving said. "Now I can tell Detective Sheehan that you concur. Just as if you had gotten the first call out. No reason for anybody to feel left out."
"That's not the point, Chief."
"What is the point, Detective? That you can't go along to get along? That you do not accept the command decisions of this department? I am losing my patience with you, Detective. Something I had hoped would never happen to me again."
Irving was standing too close to Bosch, his wintergreen breath puffing right in his face. It made Bosch feel pinned down by the man and he wondered if it was done on purpose. He stepped back and said, "But no note."
"No note yet. We still have some things to check."
Bosch wondered what. Moore's apartment and office would have been checked when he first turned up missing. Same with his wife's home. What was left? Could Moore have mailed a note to somebody? It would have arrived by now.
"When did it happen?"
"Hopefully, we'll get an idea from the autopsy tomorrow morning. But I am guessing he did it shortly after he checked in. Six days ago. In his first interview, the manager said Moore checked in six days ago and hadn't been seen outside the room since. This jibes with the condition of the room, the condition of the body, the date on the newspaper."
The autopsy was tomorrow morning. That told Bosch that Irving had this one greased. It usually took three days to get an autopsy done. And the Christmas holiday would back things up even further.
- On Sale
- Oct 28, 2010
- Page Count
- 528 pages
- Little, Brown and Company