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About the Author
Date of Birth:July 21, 1956
Place of Birth:Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education:B.A. in Journalism, University of Florida, 1980
Read an Excerpt
The Concrete Blonde
By Michael Connelly
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2013 Michael Connelly
All rights reserved.
There are no benches in the hallways of the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. No place to sit. Anybody who slides down the wall to sit on the cold marble floor will get rousted by the first deputy marshal who walks by. And the marshals are always out in the halls, walking by.
The lack of hospitality exists because the federal government does not want its courthouse to give even the appearance that justice may be slow, or nonexistent. It does not want people lining the halls on benches, or on the floor, waiting with weary eyes for the courtroom doors to open and their cases or the cases of their jailed loved ones to be called. There is enough of that going on across Spring Street in the County Criminal Courts building. Every day the benches in the hallways of every floor are clogged with those who wait. Mostly they are women and children, their husbands or fathers or lovers held in lockup. Mostly they are black or brown. Mostly the benches look like crowded life rafts—women and children first—with people pressed together and cast adrift, waiting, always waiting, to be found. Boat people, the courthouse smartasses call them.
Harry Bosch thought about these differences as he smoked a cigarette and stood on the front steps of the federal courthouse. That was another thing. No smoking in the hallways inside. So he had to take the escalator down and come outside during the trial's breaks. Outside there was a sand-filled ash can behind the concrete base of the statue of the blindfolded woman holding up the scales of justice. Bosch looked up at the statue; he could never remember her name. The Lady of Justice. Something Greek, he thought but wasn't sure. He went back to the folded newspaper in his hands and reread the story.
Lately, in the mornings, he would read only the Sports section, concentrating his full attention on the pages in the back where box scores and statistics were carefully charted and updated each day. He somehow found the columns of numbers and percentages comforting. They were clear and concise, an absolute order in a disordered world. Having knowledge of who had hit the most home runs for the Dodgers made him feel that he was still connected in some way to the city, and to his life.
But today he had left the Sports section folded and tucked into his briefcase, which was under his chair in the courtroom. The Los Angeles Times's Metro section was in his hands now. He had carefully folded the section into quarters, the way he had seen drivers on the freeway do it so they could read while they drove, and the story on the trial was on the bottom corner of the section's front page. He once again read the story and once again felt his face grow hot as he read about himself.
TRIAL ON POLICE "TOUPEE" SHOOTING TO BEGIN BY JOEL BREMMER, TIMES STAFF WRITER
As an unusual civil rights trial gets under way today, a Los Angeles police detective stands accused of having used excessive force four years ago when he shot and killed a purported serial killer he believed was reaching for a gun. The alleged killer was actually reaching for his toupee.
Los Angeles Police Detective Harry Bosch, 43, is being sued in U.S. District Court by the widow of Norman Church, an aerospace worker Bosch shot to death at the climax of the investigation into the so-called Dollmaker killings.
For nearly a year before the shooting, police had sought a serial killer so named by the media because he used makeup to paint the faces of his 11 victims. The highly publicized manhunt was marked by the killer's sending of poems and notes to Bosch and the Times.
After Church was killed, police announced they had unequivocal evidence proving that the mechanical engineer was the killer.
Bosch was suspended and later transferred from the homicide special unit of the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division to the Hollywood Division homicide squad. In making the demotion, police stressed that Bosch was disciplined for procedural errors, such as his failure to call for a backup to the Silverlake apartment where the fatal shooting took place.
Police administrators maintained that the Church killing was a "good" shooting—department terminology meaning not improper.
Since Church's death precluded a trial, much of the evidence gathered by police has never been provided publicly under oath. That will likely change with the federal trial. A week-long jury selection process is expected to be completed today with the opening statements of the attorneys to follow.
Bosch had to refold the paper to continue reading the story on an inside page. He was momentarily distracted by seeing his own picture, which was on the inside page. It was an old photo and looked not unlike a mug shot. It was the same one that was on his department ID card. Bosch was more annoyed by the photo than the story. It was an invasion of his privacy to put his picture out like that. He tried to concentrate on the story.
Bosch is being defended by the City Attorney's Office because he was acting in the line of duty when the shooting occurred. If any judgment is won by the plaintiff, the city taxpayers, not Bosch, will pay.
Church's wife, Deborah, is being represented by civil rights attorney Honey Chandler, who specializes in police abuse cases. In an interview last week, Chandler said she will seek to prove to the jury that Bosch acted in such a reckless manner that a fatal shooting of Church was inevitable.
"Detective Bosch was cowboying and a man ended up dead," Chandler said. "I don't know if he was merely reckless or if there is something more sinister here, but we will find out in the trial."
That was the line that Bosch had read and reread at least six times since getting the paper during the first break. Sinister. What did she mean by that? He had tried not to let it bother him, knowing that Chandler would not be above using a newspaper interview for a psych-ops outing but, still, it felt like a warning shot. It let him know more was to come.
Chandler said she also plans to question the police evidence that Church was the Dollmaker. She said Church, the father of two daughters, was not the serial killer police sought and that they labeled him as such to cover up Bosch's misdeed.
"Detective Bosch killed an innocent man in cold blood," Chandler said. "What we are doing with this civil rights suit is what the police department and the district attorney's office refused to do: bring forward the truth and provide justice for Norman Church's family."
Bosch and Asst. City Atty. Rodney Belk, who is defending him, declined comment for this story. Along with Bosch, those expected to testify in the one-to two- week case include—
"Spare change, pal?"
Bosch looked up from the paper into the grimy but familiar face of the homeless man who had staked out the front of the courthouse as his turf. Bosch had seen him out here every day during the week of jury selection, making his change-and- cigarette rounds. The man wore a threadbare tweed jacket over two sweaters and corduroy pants. He carried a plastic bag of belongings and a Big Gulp cup to shake in front of people when he asked for change. He also always carried with him a yellow legal pad with scribbling all over it.
Bosch instinctively patted his pockets and shrugged. He had no change.
"I'd take a dollar, you know."
"Don't have a spare dollar."
The homeless man dismissed him and looked into the ash can. Yellowed cigarette butts grew from the sand like a crop of cancer. He put his yellow pad under his arm and began to pick through the offerings, taking those that still had a quarter inch or more of tobacco to smoke. Every now and then he would find a nearly whole cigarette and make a clicking sound with his mouth to show his approval. He put the harvest from the ash can in the Big Gulp cup.
Happy with his findings, the man stepped back from the ash can and looked up at the statue. He looked back at Bosch and winked, then began to rock his hips in a lewd mimicry of a sexual act.
"How 'bout my girl here?" he said.
The man then kissed his hand and reached up and patted the statue.
Before Bosch could think of something to say, the pager on his belt began to chirp. The homeless man stepped back another two steps and raised his free hand as if to ward off some unknown evil. Bosch saw the look of deranged panic spread on his face. It was the look of a man whose brain synapses were spread too far apart, the connections dulled. The man turned and scurried away, out toward Spring Street, with his cup of used cigarettes.
Bosch watched him until he was gone and then pulled the pager off his belt. He recognized the number on the display. It was Lieutenant Harvey "Ninety-eight" Pounds's direct line at the Hollywood station. He put what was left of his cigarette into the sand and went back into the courthouse. There was a bank of pay phones at the top of the escalator, near the second-floor courtrooms.
"Harry, what's happening there?" Pounds asked.
"The usual. Just waiting around. We got a jury, so now the lawyers are in with the judge, talking about openers. Belk said I didn't have to sit in on that, so I'm just hanging around."
He looked at his watch. It was ten to twelve.
"They'll be breaking for lunch soon," he added.
"Good. I need you."
Bosch didn't reply. Pounds had promised he would be off the case rotation until the trial was over. A week more, maybe two, at the most. It was a promise Pounds had no choice but to make. He knew that Bosch couldn't handle catching a homicide investigation while in federal court four days a week.
"What's going on? I thought I was off the list."
"You are. But we may have a problem. It concerns you."
Bosch hesitated again. Dealing with Pounds was like that. Harry would trust a street snitch before he'd trust Pounds. There was always the spoken motive and the hidden motive. It seemed that this time the lieutenant was doing one of his routine dances. Speaking in elliptical phrases, trying to get Bosch to bite on the hook.
"A problem?" Bosch finally asked. A good noncommittal reply.
"Well, I take it you saw the paper today—the Times story about your case?"
"Yeah, I was just reading it."
"Well, we got another note."
"A note? What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about somebody dropping a note at the front desk. Addressed to you. And damn if it doesn't sound like those notes you got from the Dollmaker back when all of that was going on."
Bosch could tell Pounds was enjoying this, the stretching it out.
"If it was addressed to me, how do you know about it?"
"It wasn't mailed. No envelope. It was just one page, folded over. Had your name on the fold. Somebody left it at the front desk. Somebody there read it, you can figure it from there."
"What does it say?"
"Well, you're not going to like this, Harry, the timing is god-awful, but the note says, it says basically that you got the wrong guy. That the Dollmaker is still out there. The writer says he's the real Dollmaker and that the body count continues. Says you killed the wrong guy."
"It's bullshit. The Dollmaker's letters were carried in the paper, in Bremmer's book on the case. Anybody could pick up the style and write a note. You—"
"You take me for a moron, Bosch? I know anybody could've written this. But so did the writer know that. So to prove his point he included a little treasure map, I'd guess you'd call it. Directions to another victim's body."
A long silence filled the line while Bosch thought and Pounds waited.
"And so?" Bosch finally said.
"And so I sent Edgar out to the location this morning. You remember Bing's, on Western?"
"Bing's? Yeah, south of the Boulevard. Bing's. A pool hall. Didn't that place go down in the riots last year?"
"Right," Pounds said. "Complete burnout. They looted and torched the place. Just the slab and three walls left standing. There's a city demolition order against it but the owner hasn't acted yet. Anyway, that's the spot, according to this note we got. Note says she was buried under the floor slab. Edgar went out there with a city crew, jackhammers, the works...."
Pounds was dragging it out. What a petty asshole, Bosch thought. This time he would wait longer. And when the silence grew nervously long, Pounds finally spoke.
"He found a body. Just like the note said he would. Beneath the concrete. He found a body. That's—"
"How old is it?"
"Don't know yet. But it's old. That's why I'm calling. I need you to go out there during the lunch break and see what you can make of this. You know, is it legit as a Dollmaker victim or is some other wacko jerking us off? You're the expert. You could go out there when the judge breaks for lunch. I'll meet you there. And you'll be back in time for openers."
Bosch felt numb. He already needed another cigarette. He tried to place all of what Pounds had just said into some semblance of order. The Dollmaker—Norman Church—had been dead four years now. There had been no mistake. Bosch knew that night. He still knew it in his guts today. Church was the Dollmaker.
"So this note just appeared at the desk?"
"Desk sergeant found it on the front counter about four hours ago. Nobody saw anybody leave it. You know, a lot of people come through the front in the mornings. Plus we had change of shift. I had Meehan go up and talk to the desk uniforms. Nobody remembers jack shit about it until they found it."
"Shit. Read it to me."
"Can't. SID has it. Doubt there will be any lifts, but we have to go through the motions. I'll get a copy and have it with me at the scene, okay?"
Bosch didn't answer.
"I know what you're thinking," Pounds said. "But let's hold our horses till we see what is out there. No reason to worry yet. Might be some stunt cooked up by that lawyer, Chandler. Wouldn't put it past her. She's the type, she'd do anything to nail another LAPD scalp to the wall. Likes seeing her name in the paper."
"What about the media? They heard about this yet?"
"We've gotten a few calls about a body being found. They must've gotten it off the coroner's dispatch freek. We've been staying off the air. Anyway, nobody knows about the note or the Dollmaker tie-in. They just know there's a body. The idea of it being found under the floor of one of the riot burnouts is sexy, I guess.
"Anyway, we have to keep the Dollmaker part under our hat for the time being. Unless, of course, whoever wrote it also sent copies out to the media. If he did that, we'll hear about it by the end of the day."
"How could he bury her under the slab of a pool hall?"
"The whole building wasn't a pool hall. There were storage rooms in the back. Before it was Bing's it was a studio prop house. After Bing's took the front, they rented out sections in the back for storage. This is all from Edgar, he got the owner out there. The killer must've had one of the rooms, broke through the existing slab and put this girl's body in there. Anyway, it all got burned down in the riots. But the fire didn't hurt the slab. This poor girl's body has been down in there through all of that. Edgar said it looks like a mummy or something."
Bosch saw the door to courtroom 4 open and members of the Church family came out followed by their lawyer. They were breaking for lunch. Deborah Church and her two teenaged daughters did not look at him. But Honey Chandler, known by most cops and others in the federal courts building as Money Chandler, stared at him with killer eyes as she passed. They were as dark as burnt mahogany and set against a tanned face with a strong jawline. She was an attractive woman with smooth gold hair. Her figure was hidden in the stiff lines of her blue suit. Bosch could feel the animosity from the group wash over him like a wave.
"Bosch, you still there?" Pounds asked.
"Yeah. It looks like we just broke for lunch."
"Good. Then head over there and I'll meet you. I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but I hope it's just another wacko. For your sake, it might be best."
As Bosch was hanging up he heard Pounds's voice and brought the phone back to his ear.
"One more thing. If the media shows up out there, leave them to me. However this turns out, you shouldn't be formally involved in this new case because of the litigation stemming from the old. We are just having you out there as an expert witness, so to speak."
"See you there."
Excerpted from The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly. Copyright © 2013 Michael Connelly. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
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