The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch thriller (Harry Bosch 22) (26 page)

“I’ll be quick.”

“No worries.”

She went back into the main dining room and got in line. While she waited she kept her eyes on the door to see if Kidd would enter. She looked away for just a moment, to text Bosch that only Dupree was in the building. Bosch responded, saying he had left the gas station and had moved closer to the restaurant. He asked if she was close to Dupree, and Ballard responded.

I got a table close enough to watch.

Bosch’s return came immediately.

Just be careful.

Ballard didn’t respond. It was her turn to order. She asked for fried chicken, collard greens, and peach cobbler. She wanted enough food to keep her at the table for as long as Dupree and Kidd were at theirs. After paying, she took her tray to the next room and saw that Dupree was now facing another black man at his table. The shaved scalp told her it was likely Kidd. She had not seen him enter the restaurant and guessed there might be a rear entrance. She carried her food tray past them and to her table, where she sat at a diagonal to the man meeting Dupree.

Ballard stole a casual glance and confirmed that it was Kidd. She took her phone out and held it at an angle so it would appear she was looking at something on the screen or taking a selfie, and started taking a video of Dupree and Kidd.

After a few seconds she stopped the video and texted it to Bosch. His response came quick.

No CLOSER!

And she sent him one back.

Roger that!

She started the video again but didn’t hold the phone consistently in one spot or it could be a giveaway. She ate her food and continued to act like she was reading e-mails, at times placing the phone flat on the table, at other times holding it up as if to look closely at something on the screen. The whole time she was recording.

Because of the distance between the two tables, Ballard could make out very little of what was said by Kidd and nothing of what was said by Dupree. The men were speaking in low tones, and only now and then could a word or two be heard from Kidd. It was clear by his demeanor, however, that Kidd was agitated if not angry about something. At one point he poked a finger down hard on the table and Ballard clearly heard him say, “I am not fucking around.”

He said it in a controlled and angry tone that carried through the sounds of dining, conversation, and overhead music in the room.

At that point Ballard had propped her phone against a sugar caddy on the table. The phone was tilted so it would look like she was reading or watching something, but it provided a low-angle recording of Kidd. She just hoped it picked up the audio.

Kidd lowered his voice again and continued speaking to Dupree. Then, seemingly in mid-sentence, Kidd got up from the table and started walking toward Ballard.

She quickly realized that if he saw the screen of her phone, he would know she was recording his meeting with Dupree. She grabbed the phone and cleared the screen just as Kidd got to her table.

He walked by her.

She waited, wanting to turn to see where he was going, but not willing to risk it.

Then she saw Dupree rise and head up the aisle to the main room and the front door of the restaurant. She saw him stuff an envelope in the side pocket of his sweatpants as he walked.

Ballard let a long five seconds go by before she turned to look behind her. Kidd was nowhere to be seen. There was a rear hallway with a restroom sign. She quickly texted Bosch.

Elvin has left the building. Dupree coming out front.

Blue sweats, dodgers cap, stay with him.

Ballard got up and went in the direction Kidd had gone. There were three doors at the end of the rear hallway: two restrooms and a rear exit. She pushed the third door open a few inches and saw nothing. She went wider and saw a white pickup truck with the
KIDD CONSTRUCTION
sign on the door going down the alley. She turned around and hurried back to the front of the restaurant, calling Bosch as she went.


Elvin has left the building
—really?” he said.

“I thought it was cute,” Ballard said. “Where’s Dupree?”

“He’s sitting in a car on the street, making a call. Where’s Kidd?”

“I think he’s heading back to Rialto.”

“Did you get anything?”

“I’m not sure. I got close but they were whispering. I’ll tell you one thing, though, Kidd was angry. I could tell.”

Ballard slowed her pace so that when she stepped out of the restaurant, she would look nonchalant.

“What’s our move?” Bosch asked.

“Stay on Dupree,” Ballard said. “I want to get to my van and see what I got on my phone.”

“Roger that.”

“I think Kidd gave Dupree something. I want to see if I got it.”

“You were videoing?”

“Trying to. Let me check and I’ll hit you back.”

She disconnected and ten seconds later was at her van.

She sat and watched the video she had taken. The playback was jumpy but she had Kidd on the screen and Dupree in side profile at times. Even with the volume on Max she could not make out what was said until Kidd’s outburst—“I am not fucking around”—came through loud and clear.

She then watched as Kidd got up from the table and started walking toward the camera. His body partially obscured the angle, and the frame jostled as Ballard grabbed the phone to kill the camera. A split second before the recording ended, Kidd cleared enough of the frame to reveal the table he had just left. A white envelope was lying on the red-and-white-checked tablecloth at the spot he had vacated. It looked like a folded napkin for a place setting.

The video ended but Ballard knew that Dupree had then picked the envelope up.

She called Bosch back.

“I think Kidd gave Dupree some money. He left an envelope on the table and Dupree took it.”

“Money for what?”

“Let’s ask him.”

34

Ballard called the detective commander at South Bureau, explained who she was, and asked whether there was a free interview room she could borrow to talk to a local. The lieutenant said that all interview rooms were free at the moment and she was welcome to take her pick. She called Bosch back and said they were all set.

“Only one problem,” Bosch said.

“What’s that?” Ballard asked.

“I’m not a cop. They’re not going to let me waltz in there with you and a custody.”

“Come on, Harry—if anybody says
cop
, it’s you. But can you leave your cane in the car?”

“I didn’t even bring it.”

“Good, then we’re in business. Where are you? I want my rover so I can call in a traffic stop on Dupree.”

“I see your van. I’ll meet you there.”

“Dupree’s still not moving?”

“Still on the phone. And I can see it’s a flip.”

“A burner. Perfect. I wonder what he’s up to.”

“We should have someone on the wire.”

“But we don’t, and besides, I doubt he’s talking to Kidd. He just left him. They already talked.”

“Roger that.”

Ballard waited, and soon enough Bosch pulled up beside her and handed her the rover through the window. She called for a patrol unit to meet her at the corner where Dupree was still parked.

It was twenty minutes before a patrol unit shook loose of another call and arrived. All the while Dupree remained in his car, working his phone. Ballard flagged down the patrol car, badge in hand, and leaned down to look in at the two officers inside.

“Hey. Ballard, Hollywood Division.”

The patrol car’s driver did the talking. He wore short sleeves but had three hash marks tattooed on his left forearm. A veteran street copper who was serious about it. The other uni was a black woman who didn’t look old enough to have more than a few years on the job.

“You guys know Marcel Dupree, Rolling 60s?”

Both shook their heads.

“Okay, well, that’s him parked up the block in the black Chrysler 300 with the low profile. You see what I’m talking about?”

The driver’s name tag said
DEVLIN
. Ballard could guess what nicknames he had garnered over the years.

“Got it,” he said.

“Okay, he’s wanted on a child support warrant,” Ballard said. “That’s our in. Arrest him, take him to South Bureau, and put him in a room. I’ll take it from there.”

“Weapons?”

“I don’t know. I just saw him outside the car and he didn’t look like he was carrying. But he has a weapons record and he might have a piece in the car. I’m actually hoping so. Then we’d have something to really work with. He’s also got a burner he’s talking on right now. I want that.”

“You got it. Now?”

“Go get him. Be careful. Oh, and one other thing: when you pull him out, don’t let him close the car door.”

“Roger that.”

Ballard stepped back and the patrol car took off. She quickly went to her van, where Bosch was waiting. They got in and she pulled into traffic. She made a U-turn that brought a chorus of angry honks. She hit the flashers and sped down the street until she pulled in behind the patrol car. It had parked off the rear side of Dupree’s Chrysler at an angle that would make it difficult for him to flee in his car without hitting either the patrol car or the vehicle parked in front of him.

Devlin was standing at the driver’s door, speaking to Dupree through the open window. His partner was on the other side of the car in a ready stance, her hand on her holstered weapon.

Ballard and Bosch stayed in the van and watched, ready if needed.

“You carrying, Harry?” Ballard asked.

“Nope,” Bosch said.

“If you need it, I’ve got a backup under the dash behind the glove box. You just have to reach up under there.”

“Nice. Roger that.”

But Devlin persuaded Dupree to step out of the car and put his hands on the roof. His partner came around the car and stood by the rear passenger door as Devlin moved in and cuffed Dupree, taking one hand off the roof at a time. He then searched his pockets, putting the burner phone, a wallet, and a white envelope on the roof as he found them.

Several people honked their horns as they drove by the scene, apparently protesting another arrest of a black man by a white officer.

Dupree himself did not seem to protest anything. As far as Ballard could tell, he had said nothing since stepping out of the car. She watched as he was walked to the rear door of the patrol car and placed in the back seat.

With the suspect secured, Ballard and Bosch emerged from the van and approached the Chrysler, the driver’s door still open.

“If he has a gun in there, it will be within reach of the driver’s seat,” Bosch said. “But you should search, not me.”

“I will,” Ballard said.

But first she went over to Devlin and his partner.

“Take him to South and put him in a room at the D-bureau,” she said. “I talked to Lieutenant Randizi and he cleared it. We’ll check the car and lock it up, then we’ll get over there.”

“Roger that,” Devlin said. “Pleasure doing business with you.”

“Thanks for the help.”

The two unies got in their car and took off with Dupree. Ballard went to the Chrysler, snapping on gloves as she approached.

“You worried about a warrant?” Bosch asked.

“No,” Ballard said. “Driver left his door open and has a past record of gun violence. If there is a weapon in here, we have a public safety issue. I think that qualifies as a ‘search incidental to a lawful arrest.’”

She was quoting from a legal opinion that allowed vehicle searches if public safety was an issue.

Ballard leaned into the driver’s seat through the open door. The first thing she checked was the center-console storage compartment, but there was no weapon. She leaned farther in and checked the glove box. Nothing.

She lowered herself and reached under the driver’s seat. There was nothing on the floor. She reached up blindly into the springs and electronic controls of the seat and her hand found an object that felt like the grip of a handgun.

“Got something,” she announced to Bosch.

She pulled hard and could feel tape coming free. She brought a small handgun out from beneath the seat, black tape still attached to it.

“Now we’re talking,” she said.

She put the gun on the roof of the car with the other property found on Dupree’s person. She picked up the phone and thumbed it open. On the screen she saw that Dupree had missed a call from a 213 number that looked vaguely familiar to her. It had come in just a few minutes before, while Dupree was being arrested. She took out her own phone and called the number. It connected right away to a recording that said it was a Los Angeles County number that did not accept incoming calls.

“What is it?” Bosch asked.

He had come up next to her.

“Dupree just missed a call from a county line that doesn’t accept incoming calls,” Ballard said. “Only calls going out.”

“Men’s Central,” Bosch said. “Somebody was calling him from jail.”

Ballard nodded. It sounded right. The phone didn’t appear to be password protected. Ballard wanted to know whom Dupree had been talking to before his arrest, but she did not want to risk the case by looking through the phone’s previous-call list without a warrant.

“What’s in the envelope?” Bosch asked.

Ballard closed the phone and put it back on the car’s roof. She then took up the envelope. It was not sealed. She opened it and thumbed through the stack of currency inside.

“Thirty one-hundred-dollar bills,” she said. “Kidd was paying Dupree—”

“To hit someone,” Bosch said. “You need to call Men’s Central and get Dennard Dorsey in protective custody as soon as possible. Call right now.”

Ballard tossed the envelope back on the roof of the car and pulled her phone again. She called the Men’s Central number she had stored on her phone for when she wanted to set up an inmate interview. It was the only number she had.

She got lucky. Deputy Valens answered the call.

“Valens, this is Ballard. I was in there a couple days ago to talk to a guy in the Crips module named Dennard Dorsey. You remember?”

“Uh, yeah, I remember. We don’t get many looking like you in here.”

Ballard ignored the comment. This was an emergency.

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