By Michael Connelly
Grand Central Publishing Copyright © 2013 Michael Connelly
All rights reserved.
As he drove along Mulholland Drive toward the Cahuenga Pass, Bosch began to hear the music. It came to him in fragments of strings and errant horn sequences, echoing off the brown summer-dried hills and blurred by the white noise of traffic carrying up from the Hollywood Freeway. Nothing he could identify. All he knew was that he was heading toward its source.
He slowed when he saw the cars parked off to the side of a gravel turn-off road. Two detective sedans and a patrol car. Bosch pulled his Caprice in behind them and got out. A single officer in uniform leaned against the fender of the patrol car. Yellow plastic crime-scene tape—the stuff used by the mile in Los Angeles—was strung from the patrol car's sideview mirror across the gravel road to the sign posted on the other side. The sign said, in black-on-white letters that were almost indistinguishable behind the graffiti that covered the sign:
L.A.F.D. FIRE CONTROL MOUNTAIN FIRE DISTRICT ROAD NO PUBLIC ADMITTANCE—NO SMOKING!
The patrol cop, a large man with sun-reddened skin and blond bristly hair, straightened up as Bosch approached. The first thing Bosch noted about him other than his size was the baton. It was holstered in a ring on his belt and the business end of the club was marred, the black acrylic paint scratched away to reveal the aluminum beneath. Street fighters wore their battle-scarred sticks proudly, as a sign, a not so subtle warning. This cop was a headbanger. No doubt about it. The plate above the cop's breast pocket said his name was Powers. He looked down at Bosch through Ray-Bans, though it was well into dusk and a sky of burnt orange clouds was reflected in his mirrored lenses. It was one of those sundowns that reminded Bosch of the glow the fires of the riots had put in the sky a few years back.
"Harry Bosch," Powers said with a touch of surprise. "When did you get back on the table?"
Bosch looked at him a moment before answering. He didn't know Powers but that didn't mean anything. Bosch's story was probably known by every cop in Hollywood Division.
"Just did," Bosch said.
He didn't make any move to shake hands. You didn't do that at crime scenes.
"First case back in the saddle, huh?"
Bosch took out a cigarette and lit it. It was a direct violation of department policy but it wasn't something he was worried about.
"Something like that." He changed the subject. "Who's down there?"
"Edgar and the new one from Pacific, his soul sister."
Bosch said nothing further about that. He knew what was behind the contempt in the uniform cop's voice. It didn't matter that he knew Kizmin Rider had the gift and was a top-notch investigator. That would mean nothing to Powers, even if Bosch told him it was so. Powers probably saw only one reason why he was still wearing a blue uniform instead of carrying a detective's gold badge: that he was a white man in an era of female and minority hiring and promotion. It was the kind of festering sore better left undisturbed.
Powers apparently registered Bosch's nonresponse as disagreement and went on.
"Anyway, they told me to let Emmy and Sid drive on down when they get here. I guess they're done with the search. So you can drive down instead of walking, I guess."
It took a second for Bosch to register that Powers was referring to the medical examiner and the Scientific Investigation Division tech. He'd said the names as if they were a couple invited to a picnic.
Bosch stepped out to the pavement, dropped the half cigarette, and made sure he put it out with his shoe. It wouldn't be good to start a brush fire on his first job back with the homicide table.
"I'll walk it," he said. "What about Lieutenant Billets?"
"Not here yet."
Bosch went back to his car and reached in through the open window for his briefcase. He then walked back to Powers.
"You the one who found it?"
"That was me."
Powers was proud of himself.
"How'd you open it?"
"Keep a slim jim in the car. Opened the door, then popped the trunk."
"The smell. It was obvious."
"Nope. Didn't have any."
"What did you touch?"
Powers had to think about it for a moment.
"Door handle, the trunk pull. That'd be about it."
"Did Edgar or Rider take a statement? You write something up?"
"Listen, Powers, I know you're all proud of yourself, but next time don't open the car, okay? We all want to be detectives but not all of us are. That's how crime scenes get fucked up. And I think you know that."
Bosch watched the cop's face turn a dark shade of crimson and the skin go tight around his jaw.
"Listen, Bosch," he said. "What I know is that if I just called this in as a suspicious vehicle that smells like there's a stiff in the trunk, then you people would've said, 'What the fuck does Powers know?' and left it there to rot in the sun until there was nothing left of your goddamn crime scene."
"That might be true but, see, then that would be our fuckup to make. Instead, we've got you fucking us up before we start."
Powers remained angry but mute. Bosch waited a beat, ready to continue the debate, before dismissing it.
"Can you lift the tape now, please?"
Powers stepped back to the tape. He was about thirty-five, Bosch guessed, and had the long-practiced swagger of a street veteran. In L.A. that swagger came to you quickly, as it had in Vietnam. Powers held the yellow tape up and Bosch walked under. As he passed, the cop said, "Don't get lost."
"Good one, Powers. You got me there."
The fire road was one lane and overgrown at its sides with brush that came as high as Bosch's waist. There was trash and broken glass strewn along the gravel, the trespasser's answer to the sign at the gate. Bosch knew the road was probably a favorite midnight haunt for teenagers from the city below.
The music grew louder as he went further in. But he still could not identify it. About a quarter mile in, he came to a gravel-bedded clearing that he guessed was a staging point for fire-fighting apparatus in the event that a brush fire broke out in the surrounding hills. Today it would serve as a crime scene. On the far side of the clearing Bosch saw a white Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud. Standing near it were his two partners, Rider and Edgar. Rider was sketching the crime scene on a clipboard while Edgar worked with a tape measure and called out measurements. Edgar saw Bosch and gave an acknowledging wave with a latex-gloved hand. He let the tape measure snap back into its case.
"Harry, where you been?"
"Painting," Bosch said as he walked up. "I had to get cleaned up and changed, put stuff away."
As Bosch stepped closer to the edge of the clearing, the view opened below him. They were on a bluff rising above the rear of the Hollywood Bowl. The rounded music shell was down to the left, no more than a quarter mile. And the shell was the source of the music. The L.A. Philharmonic's end-of-the-season Labor Day weekend show. Bosch was looking down at eighteen thousand people in concert seats stretching up the opposite side of the canyon. They were enjoying one of the last Sunday evenings of the summer.
"Jesus," he said out loud, thinking of the problem.
Edgar and Rider walked over.
"What've we got?" Bosch asked.
"One in the trunk. White male. Gunshots. We haven't checked him out much further than that. We've been keeping the lid closed. We've got everybody rolling, though."
Bosch started walking toward the Rolls, going around the charred remnants of an old campfire that had burned in the center of the clearing. The other two followed.
"This okay?" Bosch asked as he got close to the Rolls.
"Yeah, we did the search," Edgar said. "Nothing much. Got some leakage underneath the car. That's about it, though. Cleanest scene I've been at in a while."
Jerry Edgar, called in from home like everybody else on the team, was wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt. On the left breast of the shirt was a drawing of a badge and the words LAPD Homicide. As he walked past Bosch, Harry saw that the back of the shirt said Our Day Begins When Your Day Ends. The tight-fitting shirt contrasted sharply with Edgar's dark skin and displayed his heavily muscled upper body as he moved with an athletic grace toward the Rolls. Bosch had worked with him on and off for six years but they had never become close outside of the job. This was the first time it had dawned on Bosch that Edgar actually was an athlete, that he must regularly work out.
It was unusual for Edgar not to be in one of his crisp Nordstrom's suits. But Bosch thought he knew why. His informal dress practically guaranteed he would avoid having to do the dirty work, next-of-kin notification.
They slowed their steps when they got close to the Rolls, as if perhaps whatever was wrong here might be contagious. The car was parked with its rear end facing south and visible to the spectators in the upper levels of the Bowl across the way. Bosch considered their situation again.
"So you want to pull this guy out of there with all those people with their wine and box lunches from the Grill watching?" he asked. "How do you think that's going to play on the TV tonight?"
"Well," Edgar replied, "we thought we'd kind of leave that decision to you, Harry. You being the three."
Edgar smiled and winked.
"Yeah, right," Bosch said sarcastically. "I'm the three."
Bosch was still getting used to the idea of being a so-called team leader. It had been almost eighteen months since he had officially investigated a homicide, let alone headed up a team of three investigators. He had been assigned to the Hollywood Division burglary table when he returned to work from his involuntary stress leave in January. The detective bureau commander, Lieutenant Grace Billets, had explained that his assignment was a way of gradually easing him back into detective work. He knew that explanation was a lie and that she had been told where to put him, but he took the demotion without complaint. He knew they would come for him eventually.
After eight months of pushing papers and making the occasional burglary arrest, Bosch was called into the CO's office and Billets told him she was making changes. The division's homicide clearance rate had dipped to its lowest point ever. Fewer than half of the killings were cleared. She had taken over command of the bureau nearly a year earlier, and the sharpest decline, she struggled to admit, had come under her own watch. Bosch could have told her that the decline was due in part to her not following the same statistical deceptions practiced by her predecessor, Harvey Pounds, who had always found ways of pumping up the clearance rate, but he kept that to himself. Instead, he sat quietly while Billets laid out her plan.
The first part of the plan was to move Bosch back to the homicide table as of the start of September. A detective named Selby, who barely pulled his weight, would go from homicide to Bosch's slot on the burglary table. Billets was also adding a young and smart detective transfer she had previously worked with in the Pacific Division detective bureau, Kizmin Rider. Next, and this was the radical part, Billets was changing the traditional pairing of detectives. Instead, the nine homicide detectives assigned to Hollywood would be grouped into three teams of three. Each of the three teams would have a detective third grade in charge. Bosch was a three. He was named team leader of squad one.
The reasoning behind the change was sound—at least on paper. Most homicides are solved in the first forty-eight hours after discovery or they aren't solved at all. Billets wanted more solved, so she was going to put more detectives on each one. The part that didn't look so good on paper, especially to the nine detectives, was that previously there had been four pairs of partners working homicide cases. The new changes meant each detective would be working every third case that came up instead of every fourth. It meant more cases, more work, more court time, more overtime, and more stress. Only the overtime was considered a positive. But Billets was tough and didn't care much for the complaints of the detectives. And her new plan quickly won her the obvious nickname.
"Anybody talk to Bullets yet?" Bosch asked.
"I called," Rider said. "She was up in Santa Barbara for the weekend. Left a number with the desk. She's coming down early but she's still at least an hour and a half from us. She said she was going to have to drop the hubby off first and would probably just roll to the bureau."
Bosch nodded and stepped to the rear of the Rolls. He picked up the smell right away. It was faint but it was there, unmistakable. Like no other. He nodded to no one in particular again. He placed his briefcase on the ground, opened it, and took a pair of latex gloves from the cardboard box inside. He then closed the case and placed it a few feet behind him and out of the way.
"Okay, let's take a look," he said while stretching the gloves over his hands. He hated how they felt. "Let's stand close; we don't want to give the people in the Bowl more of a show than they paid for."
"It ain't pretty," Edgar said as he stepped forward.
The three of them stood together at the back end of the Rolls to shield the view from the concertgoers. But Bosch knew that anybody with a decent pair of field glasses would know what was going on. This was L.A.
Before opening the trunk, he noticed the car's personalized license plate. It said TNA. Before he could speak, Edgar answered his unasked question.
"Comes back to TNA Productions. On Melrose."
"T and A?"
"No, the letters, T-N-A, just like on the plate."
"Where on Melrose?"
Edgar took a notebook out of his pocket and looked through the pages. The address he gave was familiar to Bosch but he couldn't place it. He knew it was down near Paramount, the sprawling studio that took up the entire north side of the fifty-five-hundred block. The big studio was surrounded by smaller production houses and mini-studios. They were like sucker fish that swam around the mouth of the big shark, hoping for the scraps that didn't get sucked in.
"Okay, let's do it."
He turned his attention back to the trunk. He could see that the lid had been lightly placed down so it would not lock closed. Using one rubber-coated finger, he gently lifted it.
As the trunk was opened, it expelled a sickeningly fetid breath of death. Bosch immediately wished he had a cigarette but those days were through. He knew what a defense lawyer could do with one ash from a cop's smoke at a crime scene. Reasonable doubts were built on less.
He leaned in under the lid to get a close look, careful not to touch the bumper with his pants. The body of a man was in the trunk. His skin was a grayish white and he was expensively dressed in linen pants sharply pressed and cuffed at the bottom, a pale blue shirt with a flowery pattern and a leather sport coat. His feet were bare.
The dead man was on his right side in the fetal position except his wrists were behind him instead of folded against his chest. It appeared to Bosch that his hands had been tied behind him and the bindings then removed, most likely after he was dead. Bosch looked closely and could see a small abrasion on the left wrist, probably caused by the struggle against the bindings. The man's eyes were closed tightly and there was a whitish, almost translucent material dried in the corners of the sockets.
"Kiz, I want you taking notes on appearance."
Bosch bent further into the trunk. He saw a froth of purged blood had dried in the dead man's mouth and nose. His hair was caked with blood which had spread over the shoulders and to the trunk mat, coating it with a coagulated pool. He could see the hole in the floor of the trunk through which blood had drained to the gravel below. It was a foot from the victim's head and appeared to be evenly cut in the metal underlining in a spot where the floor mat was folded over. It was not a bullet hole. It was probably a drain or a hole left by a bolt that had vibrated loose and fallen out. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Trunk Music by Michael Connelly. Copyright © 2013 Michael Connelly. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
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