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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 stole quickly into 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 remembered who Tulin was now—Irving's adjutant. Bosch stood still and waited. He looked around the kitchen, only the dim oven light 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 was someone awake and waiting for something or someone that 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 at least initially 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 skewed things toward 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 underway at the site of the historical funicular 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 bit of thin 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 gopher 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 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 already figured that Irving wasn't following any procedures, not if the deputy chief had called him directly before checking with his supervisor, Lt. Grace Billets.
"Well, Jerry," Bosch said, more than used to his partner's whining, "you'll probably get the chance to personally ask the deputy chief those questions in a little while."
"Yeah, right, I ask him one of those 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 the 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 quietly come into a neighborhood 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 and 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, its 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 Modern Museum of 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 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 of the 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 incline railroad as a kid and had studied how it worked. He still remembered. The two matching cars were counter-balanced. 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 was the 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 probably does 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. His eyes fell to the hand with the bullet wound through it. Howard Elias. Bosch thought about all of 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."